Sign In Forgot Password

Machshavot HaRav: Reflections from Rabbi Waxman


A Hanukkah Heroine


All of us know about Judah Maccabee and his brothers. (If you can name all 4 of Judah’s brothers, without googling them, you can eat an extra latke or donut, guaranteed not to be fattening.) But were there any women heroes of the Maccabean period?


You may have heard of Hannah and her 7 sons. The story originally found in II Maccabees speaks of an unnamed mother whose 7 children refuse to eat pork and are all murdered by Antiochus. (She is given various names in later literature, but the name Hannah was given to her in the medieval Sefer Jossipon, a Jewish summary version of Josephus, and the name stuck.) She and her children are martyrs. But in the spirit of Hanukkah, we search for a heroine and we discover one in the guise of woman by the name of Judith. (It is no coincidence that her name is a feminine form of Judah.) There is even a book called Judith, which is to be found in the Apocrypha along with I and II Maccabees and dates from that same era. (Unlike the first two books of the Maccabees, Judith is more of a historical novella than history.) But neither Judith nor the Books of Maccabees made the cut for our Bible. And so the question is how in earlier ages Jews knew about her heroics?


About a thousand years ago, the story resurfaced in the Jewish community, and by the end of the 11th century, the French Jewish scholar Rashi, can allude to Judith. (The Rashbam, one of Rashi’s grandsons placed Judith in the same league as Esther: both are holiday heroines.) One of the earliest surviving complete manuscripts dates from the early 15th century with the title Megillat Yehudit, the Scroll of Judith. It draws heavily on the story told in The Book of Judith, with some significant additions, particularly its first section which speaks of an un-named duke who conquers Jerusalem and demands first right of deflowering new brides.


Building on the story of Jael in the Book of Judges who chops off the head of Sisera, Judith comes on to Holofernes, the commanding general—in the scroll, the brother of the duke who had been killed by Judah—who drinks himself to inebriation. In the scroll version, he eats cheese—presumably a very salty version of a feta-like cheese, which causes him to drink wine to excess. When he is out cold, Judith chops off his head and the head is displayed, and the invaders are disheartened and defeated.


The conclusion of the Scroll of Judith proclaims:


Then Judith became queen over the land and judged Israel. Because of this the children of Israel shall make a very great feast[in their pots and cauldrons, with pieces of cheese, gladness and feasting, a good day, of sending portions to one another, baked pieces, food from the frying pan and dough kneaded until it is leavened so its glory will grow with honey, all manner of baked goods, a wafer, for a memorial to the man who meddled in a quarrel which was not his and the drinking was according to the law.


It is clear that the celebration has echoes of the Book of Esther with its reference to feasting and sending portions to one another. (It also alludes to the drinking party at the beginning of Esther when it decrees “the drink was according to the law.” Compare with Esther 1:7) It also serves as both the source for eating fried foods on Hanukkah, as well as the now forgotten custom of eating cheese on the holiday. (Presumably a cheese fritter would embrace both customs.)


With several days of Hanukkah left, enjoy your latkes and a jelly donut or two and may your menorot burn brightly and bring gladness and joy to you and your families.


Chag sameach and Shabbat shalom.


P.S. If you want to read the Scroll of Judith here is the link:


P.P.S. Tonight, as well as Saturday and Sunday, at 5:30 we shall do a zoom menorah lighting. The links were sent out yesterday, again. Tomorrow, on the eve of Shabbat we shall do the lighting at 4 p.m. A separate link for that was also sent out. Please join us.






Chadashot MeYisrael:  News From Israel


An Eye in the Sky


How does a company monitor the full length of a pipeline? One way would be to periodically send out a crew on the ground to check on sections of the pipeline. Alternatively, a manned aircraft might be flown over long sections of the pipeline. An Israeli company, SkyX has developed another approach using drones.


Two of the problems that the drones can detect are leaks in the system and thefts. In the case of oil pipelines, this is not the case of an individual stealing a few buckets of oil, rather it is a question of tapping into the pipeline and diverting some of the oil.


The SkyX drones use advanced software algorithms and high-tech cameras. The software labels what it sees so that the data sent to the customer is not just a raw image but something actionable.


The Israeli company is certainly not the only company offering drone technology. What it does offer is the ability to offer a drone with built-in software. The company has been granted 3 patents for its drones with another 5 patents pending. The SkyX drone can fly at close to 75 miles hour at over 13,000 feet and do so for 1.5 hours with its lithium-ion battery. With strategically placed recharging stations, its drone can operate over the entire length of a 600 mile pipeline.


The company doesn’t sell drones, it sells data as a service. As its CEO, Didi Horn observed, “If a customer asks, ‘Can you bring a drone with thermal vision and an RGB camera?’ I will say, ‘Don’t tell me what to bring. Tell me what you want to see! People? Vehicles? Vegetation? Then I will fit you with the most advanced solution.’” SkyX provides information and recommendations to its clients, distilling the raw data and producing a compact report.


Currently, SkyX is operating in the United States, Mexico, and Latin America. A pilot project monitored a 300+ mile Canadian pipeline and discovered that a house under construction was straddling the underground pipeline and might have broken into it.


The company has its R & D staff in Tel Aviv with offices in Texas and Canada. It has already raised $25 million in two rounds of funding, with more on the way.






Payrush LaParshahah: A Comment on the Weekly Torah Portion


This Shabbat is one of only 3 possible times (other than Simchat Torah) when 3 Torah scrolls are used. (This year it will happen again, two weeks before Passover.) There is the regular weekly reading; a reading for Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the new month—in this case the month of Tevet—which serves as the 7th aliyah; and finally, a special maftir reading for Hanukkah.


The portion of Mekaytz (Genesis 43:16-44:17) is read this Saturday, December 4th Also read is Numbers 28:9-15 to mark Rosh Chodesh; and lastly, Numbers 7:42-47 for the sixth day of Hanukkah.


43:16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, “Take the men into the house; slaughter and prepare an animal, for the men will dine with me at noon.” (17) The man did as Joseph said, and he brought the men into Joseph’s house. (18) But the men were frightened at being brought into Joseph’s house. “It must be,” they thought, “because of the money replaced in our bags the first time that we have been brought inside, as a pretext to attack us and seize us as slaves, with our pack animals.” (19) So they went up to Joseph’s house steward and spoke to him at the entrance of the house. (20) “If you please, my lord,” they said, “we came down once before to procure food. (2) But when we arrived at the night encampment and opened our bags, there was each one’s money in the mouth of his bag, our money in full. So we have brought it back with us. (22) And we have brought down with us other money to procure food. We do not know who put the money in our bags.” (23) He replied, “All is well with you; do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father must have put treasure in your bags for you. I got your payment….


The steward may at first have been rather surprised at the invitation of the Palestinian shepherds to the vizier’s table, but his statement to the brothers in v. 23 presupposes that Joseph had made him familiar with the facts regarding the strange guests. Joseph still has things to do; so the brothers are at first placed under the steward’s care. The brothers here appear as humble people who are awkward and servile in strange and elegant surroundings. Once in the front door they begin to talk (Gu[nkel]). They must have been uneasy at the surprising invitation to the vizier’s private apartment after they had received such rough handling the first time and then had had the strange experience with the money. Who knows that all the knavery one might experience in a strange court? The brothers are expecting that guards will appear from somewhere and “fall upon them (hitgolel, v.18). The brothers’ verbose exculpations give a true emotional picture. The narrator is here quite concerned to reveal their inner anxiety; next to this all the graphic descriptions of the external events are only indirectly important to the extent that they make these emotional conditions comprehensible. The master of ceremonies’ gracious answer is the jewel in this masterful scene. It is reassuring and intended to distract the upset men from the object of their fear; but its dark ambiguity touches the innermost mystery of the whole Joseph story: God’s concealed guidance. God is at work in the events and therefore nothing is said now about money but rather about a “treasure” which God has placed for them in their sacks. This answer may at first have reassured the brothers somewhat, but they could only understand it later… (Gerhard von Rad, The Old Testament Library: Genesis, translated by John Marks. Von Rad was born in 1901in Nuremberg. He studied at the universities of Erlangen and Tubingen. Beginning in 1925, he served as a curate in the Lutheran state church in Bavaria. In 1929, he moved to the academic world, in the position of tutor at the University of Erlangen. In 1930, he became a privatdozent at Leipzig University. From 1934-1945 he was professor at the University of Jena. In the post-war years he held that position first at the University of Gottingen—until 1949—and then at Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg until his death in 1971. In 1960 he was a visiting professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. He was one of the leading German Bible scholars in the post-war era, focusing on form criticism. In addition to his commentary on Genesis—which first appeared ion German in 1956, with this English-language version being first printed in 1961--, his commentary on Deuteronomy also has been translated into English. He was the author of some 2 dozen volumes, many of them translated into English. Among other works are Old Testament Theology, Biblical Interpretations in Preaching, Wisdom in Israel, and The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays.)






Questions for Mkeyatz 5782 (Genesis 43:16-44:17) and Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Hanukkah (Numbers 28:9-15 and



  1. Why were the brothers frightened when invited into Joseph’s residence? Shouldn’t they have felt honored by the invitation?
  2. How do the brothers assert their innocence?
  3. How did Joseph’s steward reassure the brothers?
  4. Where else in Genesis do we find a detail of washing feet and feeding the animals?
  5. Joseph asks the brothers about their father. He asks “HaShalom l’aveechem, does your father have peace?” and “HaOdenu chay, is he still alive?” Why the apparent duplication? And does the translation of the second phrase, “is he still in good health?” mean the same as “is he still alive?”
  6. Joseph’s kid brother was now an adult, well into his 20’s. Why does Joseph leave the room after getting a look at him?
  7. What did the brothers think about being seated in chronological order?
  8. Was Joseph testing his brothers when he arranged to give Benjamin significantly larger portions?
  9. What did Joseph’s chief steward think of Joseph’s plan to frame the brothers?

Is there added significance to asserting that Joseph used the cup for divination?

  1. How do the brothers defend themselves against the accusation of theft?
  2. In defending their innocence, the brothers assert “whichever of your servants it is found with [it] shall die.” This an echo of what fatal passage earlier in Genesis?
  3. Why is it Benjamin who is framed?
  4. Did Joseph assert that he discerned what happened with divination, even without his cup of divination?
  5. What did Joseph hope to accomplish through his scheme? To keep his brother Benjamin close by and get rid of his older brothers? Did he consider the impact upon his aged father—now 130--?
  6. On a Shabbat that was also Rosh Chodesh how many yearling lambs were offered? How much flour?
  7. Why was Numbers 7:42-47 selected as the maftir reading for the Shabbat of Hanukkah?

Questions for the Haftorah (Zechariah 2:14-4:7)


  1. Why was this haftorah selected for the Shabbat of Hanukkah?
  2. Who was the Accuser?
  3. Who was the Branch?
Fri, December 3 2021 29 Kislev 5782